Many Florida gardeners ask for recommendations for pretty, flowering plants for their gardens that can thrive without much maintenance. I’d like to introduce you to Bluejacket (Tradescantia ohiensis).
Be careful what you wish for. This lovely, long-blooming plant may be one of the hardiest flowering plants in existence. If you plant it and ever decide you don’t want it in your yard, there’s no going back. Chop it down , flood it, dig it up, never irrigate it; it cannot be killed.
Bluejacket is a native Florida wildflower and can be found in all shades of pink, blue and purple. Pollinators love it. It grows best in sunny, moist, well-drained areas, but will adapt to many landscapes. It will re-seed itself outside of tidy flower beds, so it is best suited to plantings like wildflower meadows, pond borders and rain gardens. You can find this plant at native plant nurseries (also, alleyways and ditches).
Bluejacket blooms in the spring, takes a break in the hottest part of the summer, and blooms again in autumn. This perennial plant will usually die back in the winter and regrow in the spring. The flowers burst into bloom in the morning, and then wither away in the heat of the afternoon. During the rainy season, Bluejacket may be affected by fungal diseases. If it starts looking poorly, simply cut it back to the ground; it will regrow again.
Bluejacket flowers are edible but won’t last long once picked. Tradescantia species have been used to detect radiation in environments because the stamen hairs on the flowers turn pink if they are exposed to radiation. Historically, Native peoples used Tradescantia species for many purposes. The very young stems and shoots were eaten (I would personally consider this a survival food only), various plant parts were used in medicine, and the flowers were used to make a blue paint.
For gardening, farming and food classes and information, or finding plant sources, contact the UF IFAS Extension-Osceola County at 321-697-3000 or online at sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/osceola/.